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Showing posts from January, 2017

first thoughts: Bazaar Mar - Miami (Brickell)

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It occurred to me that I've been to an awful lot of José Andrés' restaurants: minibar many years ago, back when it was a jerry-rigged six-seat counter in the middle of Café Atlantico, not a Michelin two-star restaurant; Jaleo in D.C., é and China Poblano in Las Vegas, Bazaar here in Miami Beach. This revelation was prompted when our waiter at Bazaar Mar, his latest in the SLS Brickell hotel, asked that routine question, "Have you eaten here before?" and then followed up by asking if we've eaten at any of José's other restaurants.[1]

One of the challenges of expanding a restaurant empire – especially when you're adding another outlet in the same territory – is coming up with different concepts so you're not just cannibalizing your own business. But Andrés never seems to be lacking for ideas, with more than a dozen different restaurants under his ThinkFoodGroup umbrella. So I was somewhat surprised that when Andrés announced his second Miami restaurant…

The List: Updated as of January 2017

A little while ago, I got the idea to make a list of my favorite places to eat in Miami. And when I say "a little while ago," turns out it was nearly five years ago. This was pointed out to me recently when Frod Jr. was home on winter break. When he told friends at school that his old dad wrote a food blog, they thought that was kind of cool. Then they went and looked, and of course were drawn to the List, and said, "Well, that's, um, kind of dated."

It sure is. Indeed, not only was that list pretty stale, but more than a quarter of the places included have closed since it was prepared – which among other things, may tell you something about the correlation between my personal preferences and restaurant success. (In my defense, that percentage is probably relatively consistent with the general failure rate in the industry, and I didn't prepare the list with predictive value in mind). In any event, it was definitely time for an overhaul.

The process was illu…

Cobaya DK with David Lanster and Kelly Moran

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When we first started doing these Cobaya dinners, we saw it as, among other things, an opportunity to give fledgling young chefs an opportunity to test out their skills. So our most recent event, Experiment #68, felt something like a return to our roots: a small group (only 18 diners), a couple young chefs (only 19 years old!), outside of a restaurant (in a beautiful loft space overlooking the Biscayne Boulevard MiMo District, generously lent to us by Pietro Morelli, who also runs Made In Italy Gourmet in Wynwood).

The chefs were David Lanster and Kelly Moran, who first started doing "pop-up" dinners for family and friends when they were in high school to raise money for the Common Threads charity. They're now sophomores in college. To put that in perspective, when we first started doing these Cobaya dinners, David and Kelly were about eleven years old.

David's interests lie in the scientific aspects of cooking, while Kelly is the baker and pastry chef of the pair. …

first thoughts: Mignonette Uptown - North Miami Beach

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For years, we were regulars at Hanna's Gourmet Diner, a shiny aluminum-sided diner along Biscayne Boulevard in North Miami Beach. Though it changed hands from the original owners some time in the 90's, Gourmet Diner maintained its quirky mix of retro Americana atmosphere and rustic French cookery. With its casual setting and several kid-friendly items on the menu, it was a place we could comfortably bring the whole family. And while the kids ate penne with pink sauce, I could have celery root salad, French onion soup, trout meuniere, tenderloin tips in bordelaise sauce, or their reliably good roast duck. Always with a side of the vegetable souffle of the day, and sometimes, a fruit tart for dessert.

Gourmet Diner moved out of the space a couple years ago. Happily, Daniel Serfer and Ryan Roman, chef-owner and co-owner of Mignonette oyster bar near downtown, spotted it and had a good idea. Now, it's Mignonette Uptown. I was there for "friends and family" last Thur…

first thoughts: Cake Thai - Wynwood, Miami

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About a year and a half ago, I sung the praises of Cake Thai Kitchen, a tiny spot in Miami's Upper East Side opened by chef Phuket Thongsodchareondee (a/k/a "Cake"). From this little hole in a wall, Cake was putting out some of the best Thai food I've eaten in this city. This was not the "regulation issue" menu of so many other local Thai spots; Cake offered some boldly-flavored street foods, executed with that percussive attack of spicy / sour / salty / bitter / sweet / herbaceous that brings such joy when Thai food is properly done.

The only thing I couldn't unreservedly recommend about Cake was its location. It was actually great for me personally, a few miles from home and literally just a one-block detour from my usual commute. But despite some new upmarket neighbors – Paulie Gee's on the next block, The Anderson around the corner – this particular stretch of Biscayne Boulevard remains somewhat dodgy, and the utilitarian-at-best venue might not…